Today Show Discussion of Obama Team Policy Mess

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I did a short interview with NBC Chief White House Correspondent Chuck Todd yesterday about the essay I did based on Edward Luce’s Financial Times account of things going awry at the inner core of the Obama administration.
Todd also mentions both my piece and Luce’s in his “First Thoughts” column this morning. Todd and his team write:

*** Obama’s inner circle: We should have mentioned these two pieces earlier — in the Financial Times and the Washington Note — that make some key observations about Obama’s inner circle, and are getting a fair amount of buzz. One excerpt: “The Obama White House is geared for campaigning rather than governing, [observers] say. In dozens of interviews with his closest allies and friends in Washington – most of them given unattributably in order to protect their access to the Oval Office – each observes that the president draws on the advice of a very tight circle. The inner core consists of just four people – Rahm Emanuel, the pugnacious chief of staff; David Axelrod and Valerie Jarrett, his senior advisers; and Robert Gibbs, his communications chief… With the exception of Mr Emanuel, who was a senior Democrat in the House of Representatives, all were an integral part of Mr Obama’s brilliantly managed campaign. Apart from Mr Gibbs, who is from Alabama, all are Chicagoans – like the president. And barring Richard Nixon’s White House, few can think of an administration that has been so dominated by such a small inner circle.”

Other interesting reactions and thoughts can be read at Digby’s Hullabaloo, pieces by John Aravosis and Joe Sudbay at AmericaBlog, at Peter Feaver’s Foreign Policy blog, and this morning in The Hill.
Also check out Jake Tapper’s take at ABC’s Political Punch.
There are also a number of sites — some very interesting ones — that take exception to the thesis that Luce and I have both put out there and who think that Obama’s team is getting most things right — or that this kind of palace intrigue article is at most entertaining and at worst malicious. I just want to be up front that there are other views out there — and my intent is not malicious — but rather to put a mirror up to the White House and have the President take a good look at how his presidency is quickly sinking.
In my view, he needs to do what Richard Wolffe in his book Renegade: The Making of a President said Obama likes to do when the President knows he is losing and that is, like in basketball, change things up.
— Steve Clemons

Comments

32 comments on “Today Show Discussion of Obama Team Policy Mess

  1. leonardo says:

    Laissez Faire publication says that one can opt out of OBAMA CARE with only “three words”.. Is that a fact or fiction?

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  2. nadine says:

    “We will never surmount the fact that the average end user of medical services is greatly lacking in the knowledge and calm wherewithal needed to be a fully rational and informed consumer of medical goods.” (Dan Kervick)
    Dan, the average consumer knows far more about his local restaurant than his local hospital. First of all, he knows what it costs. Second of all, he knows how well it has been rated by other consumers. Third, he knows what it serves. This is more than he usually is able to find out about medical services. He doesn’t have to be a chef himself to make use of what information he has. Nor would a medical consumer.
    There is a tendency to say that because SOME medical services are used in a emergency situation where you must trust the experts, we have to throw up our hands at having informed consumers for ALL medical services. We have to give up even having public knowledge of things that could be compared apples to apples, what different labs charge for blood work, etc.
    There is no reason for this. Furthermore, if the medical services market were tightened up to respond to consumer needs for non-emergency services, it would be more efficient for emergency services as well.
    “The system we have is neither a market nor a government program, it’s a private third-party payer system, and so makes very little economic sense.”
    Yes. It’s also a market where government is the payer for half the services, and wraps the market up in so many arcane rules that it is warped beyond recognition and unable to respond to market forces. Liberals see this situation and say, “Market is broken – More government control”: conservatives see it and say “Are you kidding me? Government is the problem, back it off so the markets can function.”

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  3. Dan Kervick says:

    The system we have is neither a market nor a government program, it’s a private third-party payer system, and so makes very little economic sense.
    I’m not sure what this part of Levin’s article means, Nadine. Insurance companies are private firms participating in a reasonably free market for the sale of medical services. Middle-men are prevalent throughout our economy, for all sorts of products and services. They are one of the mechanism by which the market system solves the problems of efficient distribution and deficiencies in consumer information.
    But sometimes market mechanisms don’t work. When the market in question is large and complex, and is built around the exchange of specialized, knowledge-intensive goods which the end customers lack the expertise to evaluate carefully; and when those consumers are further limited in their ability to apply rational market signals by the fact that they tend to utilize the good most when they are in the most vulnerable, impaired and easily exploited position, then the producers, providers and distributors of the good find themselves in a situation in which they best advance their own personal interests not by competing with each other to deliver a better product more leanly, for lower prices, but by sending tacit signals to collude with one another to keep costs high, and to distribute the benefits of these high costs among themselves. The health industry is a bloated, too-good-to-be true cash cow, fed by the blood of desperately ill people eager to part with their money.
    It’s not just insurance companies. They actually occupy the most competitive and efficient part of the racket. I think hospitals, manufacturers of pharmaceuticals and other supplies, and the doctors who are part of an uneconomical, price-fixing priesthood, are a bigger issue. But the health reform bill didn’t touch them at all.
    I actually tend to agree with the line of argument, not just advanced by conservatives, that the purchase of group insurance through *employers* is not the best way to go. For one thing, the lack of portability makes it difficult for customers to vote with their dollars and feet, and to go where the most innovative and efficient providers of medical services are located. For another, it keeps workers indentured to their employers.
    We will never surmount the fact that the average end user of medical services is greatly lacking in the knowledge and calm wherewithal needed to be a fully rational and informed consumer of medical goods. That’s why most of the conservative and moderate recommendations are not going to work to whip the cash cow into healthy, lean shape.

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  4. questions says:

    Price signals = you don’t got money, you die.
    Health care, Nadine, is different from many other commodities. It gets more expensive over time, not cheaper. As it improves via technology, it gets even more expensive. It is labor intensive, not open to efficiency gains, and so it subject to a labor cost of inflation rather than regular inflation. Like education, it’s just really expensive to do well.
    When education needs to gain efficiency, it hires less qualified teachers, drops elective subjects, closes the library for more hours, stops ordering journals, increases class size…. The students come out a little more ignorant, but they generally come out alive.
    When health care needs to gain efficiency, it drops coverage and people die. It uses less competent practitioners, and people die. It treats less, and people die.
    The market doesn’t want to do education and health WELL for all people. And lots of people can’t afford it. So they get ignorance and death. Gee, that’s a thing to celebrate.

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  5. nadine says:

    Dan, liberals and conservatives both want reform of the current health insurance system, but diagnose its ills completely differently and want completely different corrections. The salient point is that each camp thinks the other camps corrections is worse than doing nothing. Yuval Levin of NRO explains:
    Both sides agree there are huge problems with the current system, and they even agree on what some of those problems are: there is a shortage of incentives for efficiency, and therefore costs are rising much too quickly, which leaves too many people unable to afford coverage. The system we have is neither a market nor a government program, it’s a private third-party payer system, and so makes very little economic sense. The question is, given that we want to change the existing system, how do we want to change it?
    Liberals argue that we should move in the direction of socializing insurance coverage: that the efficiency we lack would be produced by putting as much as possible of the health-care sector into one big “system,” in which the various inefficiencies could be evened and managed out of existence by the rational arrangement of rules and incentives. The problem now, they say, is that the system is chaotic and answers only to the needs of the insurance companies. If it were made more orderly, and answered to the needs of the public as a whole, costs could be controlled more effectively.
    Conservatives argue that we should move toward a genuine individual market in insurance coverage: that the efficiency we lack would be produced by allowing for price signals to shape the behavior of both providers and consumers, creating more efficiencies than we could hope to produce on purpose, and allowing competition and informed consumer choices to exercise a downward pressure on prices. The problem now, they say, is that the system is opaque, hiding the cost of everything from everyone and so making real pricing and therefore real economic efficiency impossible. If it were made more transparent and answered to the wishes of consumers, prices could be controlled more effectively.
    That means that, beginning from where we are now, liberals and conservatives want to move in roughly opposite directions. And they each tend to think that moving in the other’s direction would be worse than just keeping what we have for now. That’s why the offer of moving in the Left’s direction but not quite as far or quite as fast as the Left would ideally like isn’t really very attractive to conservatives. It’s why the individual pieces of their bills that the Democrats try to point to as incorporating Republican ideas don’t really win any Republicans — because the question is which direction are you moving the system in on the whole?
    …The larger public, I think, is not so tied to either direction, but is opposed to doing anything huge. That’s a big part of what the Democrats have done wrong this year: They have proposed too much. Whichever side is smart enough to propose some modest and sensible incremental steps in its preferred direction will have far better luck with the public. Conservatives would be wise to do so in a serious and concerted way before liberals realize that it’s time to employ some different means toward their same misguided end.
    http://corner.nationalreview.com/post/?q=MDY3ZjZjNDU1ZTcwNzRhNWFhN2JhZmFkYTI2MWY0OGQ=

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  6. Dan Kervick says:

    “The electorate supported the broad goals of health care reform as articulated dozens of times each day during the election.”
    Sure, JohnH. Everyone supports the goal that they personally should have more and better health care, and should pay much less money for it. That’s about as far as the consensus goes.
    I visit some “liberal” blogs where the prevailing notion sometimes seems to be that everybody should get as much health care as they want, and nobody should pay anything for it. That’s putting it charitably. Some seem to think health care is spontaneously generated in infinite quantities in some secret facility run by the insurance companies, and that the only reason it doesn’t rain from the heavens like manna is that it is being hoarded by these evildoers.
    Some think that if someone wants to have their colons infused with organic volcanic ash, and have their chakras energized by magneto-crystal Aquarian induction, well that’s their own business, but business that you and I should pay for.
    Some “conservatives” seem to be of the view that we, the purchasers of health care, should pay however much it takes to keep every single human being alive in a vegetative state indefinitely, until Jesus strikes him dead with a bolt of lightening. Others seem to think that if some individual lacks adequate insurance, that is proof positive that they never deserved it in the first place, and that they must be lazy and unemployable welfare moochers. They would like to empower every state to run their own local health care system, so that the good white people of Alabama don’t have to pay for the abortions of all those promiscuous welfare queens in New York City, or buy bypass operations for all those unemployed illegal Mexicans on the left coast.
    Some believe that if only we radically deregulated the health care economy, health care would pour forth in such abundance from the cornucopia of the free market system, that we would have more of it than we knew what to do with. And many, while they complain about the dysfunction of the healthcare system, believe so deeply and superstitiously in the unfathomable wisdom of the Invisible Hand, and in the incorrigible stupidity and turpitude of he, the arrogant human being who would dare try to intervene in the Hand’s mysterious ways, that they leave themselves no intellectual options for addressing the problems they recognize other than to make leaps of deregulatory faith.
    The attitude of others toward health care seems to be, “I’m healthy; don’t need it; fuck you!”
    My own personal view is that way too many people are making way too much money from the health care business, and that the first step in getting more health care for everybody, for less, is to squeeze this extravagant profit-taking from the system.
    But others think that while it is good to give more health care to needy poor people, it is wrong, wrong, wrong to redistribute those resources from rich people; and they don’t like the idea of putting the squeeze on health care profits by letting the government get into he game. That kind of “vulgar Marxism” is a crude doctrine that America’s secure and affluent elites have seen beyond in their well-educated neoliberal wisdom. They think the middle class, including union workers, should foot the bill.
    So health care: everyone wants more of it go somewhere, and wants to pay less for it themselves. But there is wild disagreement about who should be stuck with the bill for that increased value.
    Lots of Americans understand health care pretty well. They have been engaged in a lot of the public debate, and that creates an illusion of a well-informed public. But a lot of others have a child’s eye view of health care, and cannot grasp that it is a finite resource under the control of human-made systems of production, exchange and distribution. So far, we seem incapable of having a frank, wide open and realistic national discussion of how health care should be paid for, how it should be distributed, and what limits should be imposed on it. The big, unpleasant realities of the finitude of life, health, pleasure, freedom and wealth, and the need to settle on tradeoffs among these finite goods, don’t seem to be comfortable topics of conversation for our over-indulged and pseudo-democratic mass society. So politicians have to dish out double-talking, euphemistic, pie-in-the-sky bullshit, and suggest that it will all just magically work out without anybody suffering any real pinch.

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  7. JohnH says:

    Sorry, Nadine, these are not 33 health care speeches. There are 33 speeches in which Obama mentioned health care at some point. Big difference!
    33 speeches mentioning health care in 365 days is pathetic. Like I said, if Obama was serious about promoting health care, he would have kept the media spotlight on his health care goals, if not nationally, then in key states. He could have made 33 speeches focused on health care during the Summer of 2009. And if he had really been serious, he could have done 33 speeches in June. During the election campaign, he made many speeches in a single day.
    Fact is, he was never serious about campaigning for health care. Nor did this “community organizer” care about organizing support. The teabaggers out-campaigned and out-organized the President.

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  8. JohnH says:

    While I agree with most of what you say, Dan, what’s needed to address the “babel of a few hundred million individuals forming several dozen micro-movements” is something called leadership. It’s taking advantage of the values based rhetoric used so successfully during the campaign to articulate a vision that pulls the fragmented electorate together into supporting a common goal. The electorate supported the broad goals of health care reform as articulated dozens of times each day during the election. But after the election the broad goals turned into policy wonk mush, and Obama stopped reiterating the common vision. Worse he stopped campaigning or organizing support. The astro-turf teabag movement took center stage in the media, meaning that not only was he out-organized, but he was out-bully pulpited, something hard to imagine.
    This is not leadership.
    “If you look at the items that were actually on the Obama legislative to-do list for the first year… he has passed most of them.” While technically true, Obama did set himself some priorities. Then started acting as if they didn’t really matter that much to him. It was Congress’ fight, not his. I don’t recall ever seeing a President do this, particularly on an issue of significant national importance where momentum was all in his favor.
    Obama’s failure was not a failure of ideas, it was a failure of leadership and effort. During the election, Obama ran to the front of the crowd. After the election he was almost irrelevant to the health care debate.

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  9. nadine says:

    Well, I confess that I picked up the 29 number from Politico, but when I checked, the Washington Post has counted up the number of health care speeches as 33. Here are links to all of them, read ’em & weep:
    http://projects.washingtonpost.com/obama-speeches/search/issues/health-care/?page=1
    I don’t make things up. I may occasionally make mistakes when I write things from memory, but so does everybody. But the local Israel haters/anti-Semites love to accuse me of making things up whenever I recount current or historical facts which don’t fit their Chomskyite morality play view of the universe.

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  10. Dan Kervick says:

    Steve and Luce have spattered some kind of Rorschach blot out on the national whiteboard. While their pieces have unleashed a lot of “damn straight” and “me too” bandwagoning, it turns out that that the superficial agreement masks about 150 divergent interpretations of what is actually going on: different interpretations of which initiatives are flawed and which ones are worthwhile, which actions are successes and which actions are disappointments, and which factors are most to blame for the failures. Everyone seems to want a course correction, but no two people can be found who want to plot the same course.
    Could the problem be that the chief problem in this country is that the US is now a babel of a few hundred million individuals forming several dozen micro-movements? There is a Democratic Party, but there is no “progressive movement”. There is a Republican Party, but there is no “conservative movement”. There are just a bunch of crazy mad Americans clinging to their own favored narratives, conspiracy theories, animadversions, hatreds and delusional fantasies. We all practice our own versions of self-segregation and security blanket group think, which keeps the reality principle perpetually at bay, supplies us with an endless supply of bitter roots to suck on, immerses us in a cloister of online buddies and confederates in misery, keeps us mad and disappointed all the time, and makes any effective political coalition virtually impossible.
    The big outstanding administration failure – so far – is health care. For several decades health care has been a graveyard of Democrats, just as Social Security reform is the graveyard of Republicans. This latest failure is not just some sort of legislative bungling wrought by an inner circle scapegoat. Obama’s entire party is not united behind a single coherent approach to health care. Republicans have even less of a consistent approach to health care. They are just united for the time being in their resolute determination that Obama should fail at whatever he does. But if the Republicans were in power again, we would find them at each others throats on health care, financial reform and other issues in no time.
    Personally, I don’t like Rahm Emanuel. But I don’t think people should get the wrong impression about why. I think he is another Israeli-American jerk working to keep the foreign policy of the US government and the American presidency enthralled to damaging, dead-end Israeli interests, and is also too in love with people who have money (which apparently includes Emanuel himself.) But I don’t for a minute think that little bitch Rahm Emanuel screwed up health care all by his lonesome, or is even the screwup-in-chief.
    Framing this debate in terms of success vs. failure – as opposed to, say, good for the country vs. bad for the country – seems one way of missing the point on what should be the central debate. Obama is pursuing a foreign policy I don’t like very much. I guess Steve doesn’t like it much either. But given Obama’s own priorities, which appear to be different from mine, and from Steve’s, Obama probably views his foreign policy as more successful than failed. He came in promising to dial down Iraq and dial up Afghanistan and Pakistan, and that’s what he’s done. He was advised by Dennis Ross during the campaign whose plan for the Middle East was to wave offers of engagement at Iran with one hand, while putting the global squeeze on them with the other, and that’s more or less what they have done. On the other hand, Obama wanted to get more foreign support for the Afghanistan War and for the Iran sanctions that are clearly such a big deal to him. So in light of those goals, I guess the policy has partially failed. (Since I am not a supporter of the big Iran sanctions campaign, I am happy that it is not fully working out. Should I view that outcome as a success or failure? I’m confused.)
    I take it Steve thinks Obama is failing because, to take one thing, he has not overhauled our Cuba policy. But Cuba seems to be somewhere around #117 on Obama’s list of foreign policy priorities. So has Obama failed because he has not accomplished something he seems in no great rush to accomplish.
    My cynical suspicion is that if you told Obama and his top advisers in the fall of 2008 that one year into the administration lefties and libertarians would be hopping mad at him for not letting more jihadists out of Gitmo, and that mainstream pundits would be writing critical pieces with the suggestion that he is “killing too many terrorists”, they would have grinned and said, “mission accomplished.”
    If you look at the items that were actually on the Obama legislative to-do list for the first year, which had to be readjusted on the fly last year following the rapid onset of the great Recession, he has passed most of them, with the big exception of health care. He passed a stimulus package that was right around the size of the one they wanted, no more and no less. And there is a very long list of Democratic backlog legislation that was successfully pushed through the Democratic Congress – Lilly Ledbetter, Matthew Shepherd, etc. He also got his Supreme Court nominee through very easily.
    I just don’t believe that the sources of dissatisfaction have much to do with the behavior of Obama’s posse. These criticisms are so old hat. A President’s inner circle of closest political advisers are *always* very political and geared toward re-election and political success. The people outside the circle *always* resent old chums who have the President’s ear and get to sit next to him in the lead car. And everyone *always* hates the Chief of Staff who is uniformly regarded as an arrogant authoritarian who is responsible for keeping a nation of self-ascribed geniuses, every one of whom has information that is absolutely VITAL to the survival of the Republic and requires two hours of the President’s time, away from the Big Kahuna.
    I continue to think there has been a failure to appreciate the impact of the Great Recession. The economic catastrophe has driven many on the pro-government left much further to the left – including me – many on the laissez faire right much further to the right, many of the god-and-steel wingers further into their dreams of Armageddon, and many of the libertarians further into their world of leave-me-alone. A country of crazy, apocalyptic, paranoid fanatics has gotten crazier, more apocalyptic, more paranoid and more fanatical. Obama is still working on his pipe dream of “bringing people together” in a neither-red-nor-blue America while many Americans dream only of bringing their opponents’ heads together with the blunt end of a baseball bat.

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  11. JohnH says:

    Obama made newsworthy comments about health care on 18 of his first 223 days as President.
    http://www.newsvine.com/_news/2009/09/09/3240968-timeline-of-obamas-health-care-overhaul-efforts
    Pathetic! Totally pathetic. Virtually comatose. This is NOT marketing or campaigning.
    The man wasn’t even trying to enact health care legislation.
    He should have been on the stump regularly during the summer, drumming up support. Obama seems to think that legislating is a spectator sport, just like he did when he was Senator.

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  12. JohnH says:

    I don’t believe it. I’d like to see Nadine’s source. I’d be surprised if Obama gave a grand total of 29 speeches in 2009! Come on, Nadine. You’re famous for making things up. Prove it!
    Meanwhile, Obama hasn’t held a news conference since last July. News conferences are good way to deliver the message about your priorities, but Obama isn’t interested.
    I’ve watched a dozen Presidents in my life. I never seen a President be virtually comatose about his own priorities. Someone serious about his program would have gone on the road to generate support, particularly in states of wavering Senators. How many times did Obama visit Nebraska, Maine, Louisiana, Arkansas or Connecticut?
    I’m telling you, the man isn’t even trying. It’s like he wants to sit on the bench until the end of the game and then go out and sink a buzzer beater. Problem is, the game ended before he showed up.

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  13. MarkL says:

    Whenever Nadine is right, the sky really is falling.
    I agree with most of what she says about Obama.
    Question, though: in those 29 speeches, how many positions did he take? Probably more than 29, or zero, depending on whether you count his ubiquitous hedging phrases.

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  14. DonS says:

    “If someone doesn’t talk sense to him – fast – Obama’s brand will not only be totally bust, he will become a laughingstock.” (Nadine)
    Like you care. I mean, really.

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  15. nadine says:

    “This explains why Obama never campaigned seriously for health care, letting all his impressive talents go to waste.” (JohnH)
    29, John. That’s how many speeches Obama gave for health care reform, including a special Presidential address to a Joint Session of Congress.
    If that’s not “serious” what would be?

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  16. nadine says:

    Obama’s chief failing – even worse than betting health care reform on being able to sell Orszag’s circle-squaring thesis – is that he is not a leader. He is indecisive. He cannot for the life of him close off an option, even when that option has failed and has been seen to fail.
    First example: Engagement with Iran. Today Obama admitted the obvious: Iran is pursuing nuclear weapons and sanctions may be needed, but, he added, the door is still open for engagement.
    Iran has spent the last eight years refusing to engage, growing more and more defiant and insulting all the while. The Europeans tried. Bush tried (the Dem line he didn’t is hogwash: Condi Rice negotiated an elaborate agreement only to have the Iranians jilt her at the altar when signing time came around). Obama tried. It’s done. It’s over. It’s failed. Obama won’t admit it.
    Second example: Passing Obamacare. He can’t pass the bill in the Senate. He couldn’t round up the terrified Blue Dogs today even if there was no Scott Brown. Yet he calls for this televised photo op meeting with Republicans and speaks of it as if it could raise Obamacare from the ashes. Everybody in Washington knows he can’t do that, so what is he talking about?
    Obama is flunking Leadership 101: When things go south, you cut your losses and move on to something that you can win. Turn the spotlight to an area that is favorable to you. Do not keep talking about your failure as if the power of your voice could somehow make it a success. This is cupping a corpse, to use an old phrase.
    If someone doesn’t talk sense to him – fast – Obama’s brand will not only be totally bust, he will become a laughingstock.

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  17. JohnH says:

    Yes, Obama is happy to be a figurehead, like he was as a Senator.
    The needs of the American people? You guys (Congress) please figure that out. Obama is too busy being President, not doing something as President.
    This explains why Obama never campaigned seriously for health care, letting all his impressive talents go to waste.

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  18. Don Bacon says:

    SC: “never have so many talented people managed to achieve so little with so much”
    The only achievement that interests current politicians — and we have plenty of examples — is gaining power, and then retaining that power. That’s the game that these talented people are playing, not the one we would like them to play that actually involves doing something worthwhile for people who are not in the power structure.
    Why should Obama act differently as a president than he did as a senator? It defies logic to think that he would be a larger person than he was, and to not be constantly campaigning to stay where he is, just as any senator or representative does.

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  19. Kathleen says:

    ot folks but important could you spread the word about this contest. Kucinich is blowing Grayson out of the water. Please go vote for Kucinich and spread the word.
    Grayson, Weiner, Massa, Frank voted to condemn the Goldstone Report and voted for the warmongering Iran Sanction Act.
    Vote for Kucinich and Grijalva who had been in the top five
    Please vote for Reps who are progressive across the board.
    Please pass the word
    http://fdlaction.firedoglake.com/
    Kucinch Blows Grayson Out Of #1 Spot, Now Ahead by 11,000+ Votes in FDL Fire Dog Contest

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  20. questions says:

    Even 42% of Republicans think we need to keep at health care reform….
    http://voices.washingtonpost.com/behind-the-numbers/2010/02/americans_spread_the_blame_whe.html
    dkos has a diary up on this which is where I got the link.
    Obama’s policies are largely things people pretty much generally want in some fashion. Nate at 538 has a thing up on this as well.
    Where the unpopularity comes from might actually not be Obama’s inner circle, major policy screw ups, big misunderstandings w/in the admin. It’s actually possible that people want stuff done and that just as the hold has miraculously been lifted from many appointees, so it’s possible that the party of no is going to come in for some more hits that turn out to be effective.
    Obama, again, is close to where the country is on a lot of issues, but the Repubs are fighting for their continued existence. If gov’t turns out to work for the people, the people are going to vote for the party that makes the gov’t work.
    Of course, the WaPo poll is only one poll. And Nate is only one pundit. And Rahm Emanuel really could do with some etiquette lessons. But it may all end up not so apocalyptic.
    If “the party of ‘no'” didn’t work as a meme, find a new one. “The Party of No Fuckin’ Way” or “The Party of Curl Up and Die” or “The Party of ‘You Can’t Make Us'” or whatever. Hammer home the Senate procedure stuff in a pithy way. Hammer home the Reub immobility in a non-whiny way. Like, really non-whiny. Really.
    Obama’s chief virtue is that he’s smart. His second virtue is that he’s got a reasonable handle on the issues and the fact that there is, outside the Beltway, concern about moving policy forward. His third virtue is that he’s had enough teaching experience that he can put sentences together without reading “cut taxes” off his hand. His fourth virtue is that he’s done absolutely nothing to earn the scorn of the Repubs who hand him scorn. He’s a Kantian in a roomful of utilitarians and libertarians. Makes it easy for him to come back to the table and try again. He doesn’t play Cold War escalation dominance games. He cooperates, even in the face of defections. Maybe he’s been through _The Evolution of Cooperation_ and is putting it into practice. (Very nice little book, btw.) A little defection on the recess appointments, a push on DADT (Go, Lt. Choi!), some executive orders here and there. Otherwise, he lets Congress do what Congress does best, and what Congress is actually charged with doing in the Constitution.
    We’ll see where it lands us. Repub intransigence is a sight to behold. But if it can be made to cause re-election doubts, then we’ll get somewhere. Time to DUMP money into one or two early, movable races?
    And maybe time to meet publicly and for a fairly long time with a few well-spoken Tea Party citizen-members — get their beefs out in the open, deal with the populist concerns, show that there are ways to manage their concerns and make their lives better. Co-opt the movement to the extent possible. Not the racist loony part, but the honest, fearful, anxious, worried about loss part. See if there’s something there?

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  21. susan says:

    Long time Rahm watcher Howie Klein http://downwithtyranny.blogspot.com/ wrote the following:
    “What many people miss when trying to understand Emanuel– but which is essential in trying to figure out his motivations– is that for two years between forcing through George H.W. Bush’s job-killing NAFTA bill for Clinton and his ascension to a rotten borough constituency in Chicago slated to be absorbed into other CDs, Wall Street waved a magic wand over Emanuel, sprinkled some fairy dust on his head and– poof–he was a high-power banker. He ran the Chicago office of Wasserstein Perella (Dresdner Kleinwort) and managed to tuck away $16.2 million before the revolving door brought him back inside the Beltway, rich enough to say “Fuck you” to anyone, especially liberals and reformers, and very much beholden to his Wall Street patrons…”
    Klein ends his piece by saying: “…Two days after he was elected, Obama announced he was giving Emanuel the most powerful position in his Administration. As I wrote at the time, it probably marked doom for Obama’s historic presidency. I stand by that, although it isn’t too late to get rid of that viper and bring in some competent and less compromised advisors.”

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  22. Jimmy Choo says:

    Obama admin = stasis = capitulation = disaster.

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  23. Mr.Murder says:

    Obama needs to remind people that a service economy can create jobs with the Health Care overhaul. They are not separate items. Immediate medical needs being met, new job creation, and the strategic gain of shaping prices on expanded competition for long curve benefits.
    Meanwhile, people might want to sue the Federal and State governments over failure to uphold NAFTA on medicine importation. Fight fire with free trade, and all that…

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  24. nadine says:

    Mickey Kaus is skeptical of Luce’s ‘blame the four inner circle campaigners and their perpetual campaign’ argument:
    “It can’t be that the President made a mistake of substance precisely when he reached outside his inner circle to policy types, buying his OMB chief Peter Orszag’s circle-squaring argument the health care reform was deficit reduction. As Ryan Lizza noted at the time, Obama was “in effect betting his Presidency on Orszag’s thesis.” It was a bad bet** and he seems to be losing it.”
    “It can’t be that this was a mistake Obama would have made if Kathleen Sebelius and Ken Salazar had been consulted–a mistake he would have made if Jim Fallows and Fareed Zakaria were installed in the West Wing, supervising a “stream of advice”designed by Peter Drucker and Norman Ornstein, with Emanuel and Axelrod exiled to 40 cars back in the motorcade. It can’t be that Obama would have made this mistake because it’s what he really thinks, which is why he kept on talking about it even as his health plan sank lower and lower in the polls. (Some good campaign-oriented advisers might actually have helped at that point–they would have noticed that the President’s vaunted salesmanship wasn’t working. But probably not even that would have helped, since the problem was something they couldn’t change: Obama.)”
    http://www.slate.com/blogs/blogs/kausfiles/archive/2010/02/08/how-to-write-a-piece-on-how-to-save-the-president.aspx

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  25. Sand says:

    cont’d
    — [3] Ross’s expanded portfolio riles Iraq, Middle East teams [Laura Rozen] — Posted 06/23/09
    No Kidding.
    http://thecable.foreignpolicy.com/posts/2009/06/23/ross_s_expanded_portfolio_riles_iraq_middle_east_teams
    And, I didn’t forget your article either back in 06/12/09.
    — [4] Can James Jones Survive a Second Round of Attacks and “Longer Knives”? [Steve Clemons]
    “…what is clear is that Jones has enemies and that they are trying to undermine his place in the Obama orbit.
    Their motives may not be earnest concern about the tempo or pace of Jones’ management style — but they very well could be his unwillingness to allow the liberal interventionists inside the Obama administration to have more than their fair share of power in the Obama decision-making process.
    Jones has structured an all views on the table approach to decision making — quite evident when it comes to Middle East policy — and the hawkish/neocon-friendly/Likudist-hugging part of the Obama administration’s foreign policy operation may be engaged in a coup attempt against Jones…”
    http://www.thewashingtonnote.com/archives/2009/06/can_james_jones/
    ———————-
    So, I was wondering if you could give us an update on what’s been happening with Jim Jones — and if there may even be a fifth member of the inner circle that we don’t know about?

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  26. Sand says:

    I’m so glad you mentioned the Foreign Policy Blog:
    — [1] The strange absence of Jim Jones [Peter Feaver] — Posted 02/08/10
    “…the article [Luce] lists the heavy hitters who are big losers because of the undue influence of the Chicago/campaign team, General Jones is not mentioned: […] the national security advisor is neither in the inner circle nor the outer circle. Where is he?…”
    Well, got me thinking — remembering all those articles discussing the power struggles between State and NSC last year.
    — [2] Is It Clinton vs. Jones? [Richard Dreyfuss] — Posted 05/04/2009
    http://www.thenation.com/blogs/dreyfuss/432474/is_it_clinton_vs_jones
    “[Dreyfuss] pointed out that Obama’s foreign policy is heavily “White House-centric,” and that Hillary Clinton and Robert Gates will take a back seat to the White House, including General James Jones, the national security adviser…”
    Note, this was written *BEFORE* Ross [Israel’s lawyer] gets moved from State to NSC.

    Reply

  27. Chris Rasmussen says:

    Steve, it is a good piece.
    That said, I’m still not entirely sure precisely how much of Obama’s “failure” is within his control, given the economy he inherited and the requirement of 60 votes. (I also find it interesting that some of those condemning the Obama Admin for the “end of healthcare reform” are the very same people who pushed for a “kill the bill” strategy).
    If this personnel has a demonstrable effect on policy, I think it worthwhile to have that discussion. Until then, it is palace intrigue.
    Further, I’ve yet to see a Presidency that a) doesn’t give disproportionate influence to advisors from the campaign, and b) six/twelve months into a Presidency, others complain about their disproportionate influence.
    When’s the last time there weren’t polticial advisors influencing the President? The Federalists?

    Reply

  28. Linda says:

    Just wanted to give Steve kudos he’s earned over the years for calling things as he sees them and stirring up thought inside (and outside) the Beltway! As with many regular commenters at TWN, I don’t agree entirely (but with most) with what he wrote Sunday.
    But I appreciate that he is not afraid to call things as he sees them. Obviously from the many cross postings at other blogs and thousands of comments, he’s succeeded in getting people thinking and expressing their frustrations during this winter of discontent.
    Mother Nature still has DC frozen and paralyzed.
    Thanks, Steve, for heating up the debate!

    Reply

  29. questions says:

    FDL and Hamsher have been on a search and destroy mission for any compromise on health care. It’s been quite something to follow this debate from the safe distance of a lurker at kos.
    The problem with the purist view on any policy is that there are equal and opposite purist views out there and our constitutional system gives both sides equal time and prefers the rural and small state and wealthy constituency over the urban.
    And then the extra-constitutional rules in the Senate push the general bent of the constitution so much further.
    There were never votes for a truly smart health care reform because the only truly smart reform that is also humane is single-payer. The other smart reform, that would not be humane, is to leave it fully to the market. Costs would come down as more and more people were forced to trust their next door neighbor’s patent medicine or the local chiropractor to deal with that weird lump….
    These are the left and right versions of the correct policy. Neither will fly given the concerns of the other side.
    The result is a compromise from hell in which the right keeps the profit motive, the left gets increased access, the right gets people putting money into the system, the left gets some subsidies, drug companies keep money, docs keep money, patients don’t lose insurance when they get sick… Unholy, certainly not rational in terms of policy wonkdom, but clearly the kind of thing our system is designed to generate. People’s interests are taken into account, even at the cost of sound policy.
    But Hamsher, again, wants rationality out of a system that really was never designed to be rational. Politics is meant to satisfy desire. Why anyone would think there’s the slightest rationality to desire is beyond me. But that would seem to be Hamsher’s take, at any rate. Again, this from a lurker at kos rather than some close follower of all things FDL.
    (Note also, that FDL bears some responsibility for the angst on the left, the kill billers, the endless phone calls to reps demanding no compromise, the horror over our being enslaved to for-profit corporations as if this were the first time ever anyone needed something and had to purchase it to the profit of someone else…. Ugh.)

    Reply

  30. JohnH says:

    Luce’s piece seems to make a lot of sense, except for his assertion that the Obama team is made for campaigning not policy. If true, this does not explain why Obama chose not to campaign for his priorities– universal health care and a ME settlement. If the team was built for campaigning, why didn’t it do the only thing it knew how to do–campaign? Doing so would have built its brand in the eyes of 2010 and 2012 voters, even if policy details and enactment processes were beyond its capabilities.
    The main charge you can level against Obama is that he hasn’t given it the old college try. You can forgive policy mistakes and dysfunctional organization. But not even trying to campaign for priorities, that’s unforgivable. Preventing your team from doing what it does best points to a deeper sickness.

    Reply

  31. susan says:

    Here is the rest of Jane Hamsher’s piece:
    “Rahm’s a hard working guy. Nothing he needs to resign over. . .
    The lawmaker said Emanuel misjudged the Senate by focusing on only a few Republicans, citing Maine Sens. Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins as too narrow a pool.
    Yes, because over and over again, Mitch McConnell and George Bush jammed through their legislation by courting Democrats and tailoring their legislation to their fine sensibilities. So now, the answer is to be nicer to Republicans, just like they’ve been saying all along.
    Hello, McFly?
    One senior Democratic senator said Emanuel was initially reluctant to push healthcare reform so early in Obama’s first term, counseling instead for the president to focus on jobs and the economy.
    But the president decided healthcare had to pass when he had a strong political mandate and the party controlled large majorities in both chambers.
    Yes, poor Rahm. Just because he’s been giving one vanity interview after another to the New York Times taking credit for running the health care show out of his office, now he was only reluctantly doing what the President wanted.
    The senator said that Emanuel allowed White House Deputy Chief of Staff Jim Messina, who had worked 15 years for Baucus, to take more of a lead in the upper chamber. The lawmaker said that was a mistake that allowed Baucus more time than necessary to negotiate with Republicans.
    Blame Baucus Messina! Well, you could see that one coming down Sepulveda when the PhRMA deal was leaked.
    Emanuel declined to be interviewed for this article.
    Really. So, did he farm it out, or was it one of those famous “off the record” conversations?”

    Reply

  32. susan says:

    Another reaction:
    http://firedoglake.com/
    Rahm and the Health Care Blame Game: It’s On!
    By: Jane Hamsher Tuesday February 9, 2010 7:50 am
    Objects are closer than they appear (photo: Aubrey Arenas)
    One sure sign that the Senate health care bill is dead as a doornail is the inevitable appearance of the anonymously-sourced, finger-pointing articles. And in a novel twist, we have one blaming Rahm for the failure to pass health care reform that appears to be written by Rahm:
    The emerging consensus among critics in both chambers is that Emanuel’s lack of Senate experience slowed President Barack Obama’s top domestic priority.
    Lack of experience — rather than being a corporatist hack who negotiated the PhRMA deal right out of the gate, which compromised not only the ability to control health care costs, but poisoned public trust once word got out.
    [O]n Capitol Hill he’s under fire for poor execution of the president’s healthcare agenda in the Senate.
    “I think Rahm ran the play his boss called; once Obama called the play, Rahm did everything he could to pass it, scorched-earth and all that,” said a senior lawmaker, who added that Emanuel didn’t seek a broader base of Senate Republicans. “I think he did miscalculate the Senate. He did what he thought he had to do to win.”
    One stenographer journalist after another told us that the White House was letting Congress take the lead on health care, and the administration was sitting by with its thumb in its mouth until a bill arrived on the President’s desk. Well, I guess that particular fiction is finally dead now that the blame game is in full swing.
    No Democrat is calling for Emanuel’s resignation, even privately, and they acknowledge his hard work and straightforward approach in a very tough job.
    Rahm’s a hard working guy. Nothing he needs to resign over.

    Reply

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